University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers have been investigating the effect of chemical substitutes for use in plastics to avoid health risks. Guidry News Service recently visited with Professor Cheryl Watson, senior author of a paper on the study. Listen
“We’ve been hearing for a while that bisphenol A is a problem,” Dr. Watson said. “Since we’ve been studying it for several years now, we know that it’s associated with a wide variety of human disease conditions, as well as wildlife problems.”
Dr. Watson said BPA can affect a number of human functions, such as reproduction and fertility, the immune system and metabolism.
“There are many things that it keeps gaining reputations for,” she said. “Because of that kind of reputation for being associated with diseases and problems, of course, it was suggested that we look for substitutes for this.”
She said the plastics industry responded by using a substitute chemical, a compound called bisphenol S, but that now seems to be problematic.
Dr. Watson's study found that BPS disrupts cellular responses to the hormone estrogen, changing patterns of cell growth and death and hormone release; and also like BPA, it does so at extremely low levels of exposure.
“I guess the biggest lesson from this, I think, is that we should start testing these things before we put them in products,” she said with a touch of humor. “Wow! What an idea, huh?”
She said a closer relationship between chemists and biologists in the beginning of the process could avoid unnecessary health risks.
In the interview, Watson described how she and graduate student René Viñas have been conducting cell-culture experiments on estrogen receptors.
“He has really very effectively and efficiently gathered the data for this project,” she said of Viñas’ work. “He is the main one who is responsible.”
She also credits others in her laboratory for their support, as well as the the Passport Foundation.
“The Passport Foundation is a group that is really interested in kind of jump starting some interesting research that has to do with environmental effects,” she said.
“I really think we need to change the future about this,” she concluded.
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